If you have an interest in silent film, Kevin Brownlow and David Gill’s thirteen-part documentary series Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film is essential viewing. This series truly is a treat for silent film fans. It’s very insightful, has a great narration by James Mason, and is chock full of interviews with actors and actresses, directors, producers, writers, cameramen, stuntmen, and journalists who were all part of the film industry during that era.
Quite a few big names were still alive at the time and were able to be interviewed for this documentary including Gloria Swanson, Janet Gaynor, Anita Loos, King Vidor, Hal Roach, Bessie Love, Mary Astor, Lillian Gish, Jackie Coogan, Colleen Moore, Louise Brooks, Frank Capra, and Charles “Buddy” Rogers, just to name a few. Interviews with some of these people were quite rare, which makes this documentary an extremely important resource for anyone wanting to learn more about the silent film era.
Although the series was released on VHS and Laserdisc, due to copyright issues, it has yet to make its way to DVD. Copies of the complete series on VHS are for sale on Amazon, but the asking prices are pretty ridiculous ($989 for a set? Get out of here.) I really hope the copyright issues can be worked out someday and it can be released on DVD, because it absolutely deserves to be seen. In the meantime, the whole series is currently up on YouTube. Each episode is just under an hour long, so it will take you a while to make your way through the series, but the time investment is absolutely worth it. I’ve included a link to each episode along with my episode summaries.
Posted in Documentaries
Tagged Anita Loos, Bessie Love, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, David Gill, Frank Capra, Gloria Swanson, Hal Roach, Jackie Coogan, James Mason, Janet Gaynor, John Wayne, Kevin Brownlow, King Vidor, Louise Brooks, Mary Astor
At first, it might seem like Joe Merrill (Charles “Buddy” Rogers) has it all. He’s handsome, he comes from a wealthy family, and he’s engaged to a beautiful woman named Millicent. But there’s a catch. In order to get his father’s blessing for their marriage, he needs to prove that he could be a success on his own without relying on the family name. So he gets a job working in the stockroom of his family’s department store under an assumed name and finds himself working alongside Maggie Johnson (Mary Pickford). Joe gets off to a little bit of a rough start as a stock boy, but Maggie helps him out and the two become good friends. Thanks to her help, Joe quickly works his way up to being a manager. Maggie and Joe even start to fall in love with each other.
Joe’s family has no idea that he is in love with someone else and his mother plans a huge surprise engagement party for him and Millicent, which he ends up skipping so he can spend an evening with Maggie instead. While the two of them are walking around town, Joe suggests that they try to have dinner at the Merrill’s mansion. Naturally, Maggie thinks he’s just kidding, but Joe convinces one of the butlers to go along with this rouse and they do end up having dinner there. The two of them have a wonderful time until Joe’s family comes home along with Millicent. Maggie finds out the truth about everything and is heartbroken. But Joe has decided that Maggie is the one for him and is determined to win her back.
My Best Girl was Mary Pickford’s final silent film and is my favorite movie of hers. Mary’s performance was simply brilliant and she and Buddy Rogers had such excellent chemistry together. The story of a wealthy person falling in love with someone who isn’t rich is hardly original, but there is so much charm, humor, and real talent to be seen in My Best Girl that it shines much brighter than other movies with a similar premise. It’s one of those movies I can watch if I’m having a bad day and it will always help make me smile. This was definitely a fitting way for someone the caliber of Mary Pickford to end that chapter of her career.
For more on Mary Pickford, be sure to visit Classic Movies for more Mary Pickford Blogathon contributions!